Letters from the Editor: It isn’t you…
I admit to being the romance Scrooge, doomed to spend each Valentine’s Day remembering my relationships past, overthinking the loves present, and dreading the dating future. I can at least hope my ghosts are the more “The Muppets” variety than Dickensian in any facet. But isn’t the relationships that get me hung up, it’s the holiday.
I’d like to clarify: I’m not one of the folks vehemently against the holiday, dead set on ruining everyone’s date night, candy, and cuddles. I’m just left slightly disappointed by it: heart shaped balloons and all.
My disappointment with Valentine’s Day is less to do with romantic attachments and more to do with what I believe to be the sad state of modern celebrations. Somehow centuries of diverse and interesting practices have boiled down to dinner dates and gift exchanges.
The Romans knew how to throw a festival. They celebrated Valentine’s Day (or rather, the festival of Lupercalia, which would evolve into Valentine’s Day) through animal sacrifice, followed by publicly whipping women with the hides of said animals, covering them in blood. The practice was supposed to encourage fertility, and women would wait their turn in line for the whippings in the hopes that the ritual would help with later attempts at conception.
St. Valentine himself was supposedly martyred for the grave decision to marry Christian couples under the reign of a decidedly disapproving emperor. At least, you can’t get much more disapproving than “this guy was beheaded.”
Basically, the historical romance is baked in blood, which is much more my speed than candy hearts.
There’s also the fact that the celebration spread with Christianity and now there are diverse celebrations of love and romance world wide, despite it starting as a saint’s festival day. In South Korea, Valentine’s Day is celebrated followed by White Day, where a full month later on March 14, men are supposed to give gifts to the women who gifted them valentines. This is further followed by Black Day, April 14, when those who received gifts for neither Valentine’s Day nor White Day go out to eat noodles with black sauce.
When you say “Single’s Awareness Day” in America, people usually think you’re pathetic or obnoxious, but it’s a real thing elsewhere. Separate entirely from Valentine’s Day, China simply has “Singles’ Day” where people celebrate being single on November 11 (get it? 11/11? All ones, all single). Most singles take the time to throw parties, shop, and generally have a good time on this day.
There’s a world of historical practices, diverse celebration, and shows of dedication; our particular culture has settled on is Snoopy and Woodstock staring at me every time I have to run to the store to pick up milk.
I’m not trying to knock down how other people choose to express their love and devotion to each other. There’s a lot of tradition between places; between individuals, there’s more built into the holidays and practices than you could even begin to keep record of. It isn’t my place to criticize those, but it’s hard for me to look at history comparatively and not feel a bit underwhelmed when I’m browsing for discount chocolates at Fred’s. Maybe it’s a “the grass is always greener” thing or maybe it’s just that I’m out of place in the realm of modern valentines.
My style of romance leans more towards Mary Shelley allegedly deciding to keep her dead husband’s heart in a desk drawer than towards allergen-ridden flowers, and I just have to accept that. It’s not you, Valentine’s Day, it’s me. But I hope the rest of you have a wonderful time this holiday.